For a long time, NAR has worked to improve the rights to unemployment benefits for doctoral candidates who have no income in the period of completing their dissertation.
We have succeeded in reducing the quarantine period considerably in connection with the submission and defence of the thesis. We have also gained acceptance for everyone to get an individual assessment of their application for unemployment benefits when the PhD period is over, but the thesis is not finished.
NAR will continue our work to ensure that unemployed doctoral candidates, who have been in paid work for several years, are entitled to unemployment benefits even if they have not completely finished their dissertation but are nevertheless actually looking for work. At the same time, we are concerned that many PhD candidates do not complete on time. We are working to increase the completion rate and for better opportunities for extension.
Unemployment benefits and organized research training
Unemployment benefits (‘dagpenger’) can be given to people who have had their income reduced as a result of working hours being reduced by at least 40 per cent. Unemployed people can receive unemployment benefits for up to 104 weeks, provided that they have had an earned income of 2 G (the basic amount in the National Insurance Scheme) or more in the last year or on average in the last 3 years. The main rule is that you reside in Norway and are a member of the National Insurance Scheme. Unemployment benefits must normally be applied for in the country you live in, but there are separate rules for EEA countries. Read more about this on the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration – NAV website.
The unemployment benefit has a twofold purpose: It is to temporarily secure income for people who have lost their jobs but must at the same time be arranged so that they motivate them to actively look for work. The main rule is therefore that you must be a real jobseeker to be able to receive unemployment benefits. This means that you must be available for work and apply for work within ordinary working hours.
Education is therefore in principle incompatible with the right to unemployment benefits because you are not a real jobseeker if you take education. However, there are exceptions to this rule (regulations on unemployment benefits § 4-3), which entitle to unemployment benefits if the education takes place outside normal working hours, ie in the evening, on weekends and the like, and teaching can be combined with full-time work during the day.
When the PhD period is finished, but the thesis is not
NAV has normally defined that work on a doctoral dissertation that is included as part of organized research training, falls under "education". NAV's briefing to doctoral candidates therefore describes that doctoral candidates who are still working on the dissertation are generally not entitled to unemployment benefits, but that they can still apply. This has occasionally been practiced so that if you are to qualify for unemployment benefits, you must relinquish your place on the doctoral program and stop working on the dissertation altogether. NAR's position has been that this is disproportionately intrusive and unfortunate for both the individual and the research. We believe that if you are a real job seeker and are prepared to take vacancies, then it must be possible to use your free time so that you can continue working on the dissertation. Our experience with the Nav system is that if there is little left before the dissertation is completed, it is easier to come up with an argument that this can be done in your spare time, combined with work or job search. It can therefore be an advantage to have a confirmation from the supervisor about the extent of what remains before it can be delivered for assessment.
We encourage all unemployed research fellows who are actually jobseekers but have not submitted their dissertation or formally completed their research training, to register as unemployed and apply for unemployment benefits. Remember that there is a waiting period, so register for unemployment well in advance, even if you do not intend to apply for unemployment benefits immediately. Under all circumstances, you must have close contact with your local NAV office.
Feel free to let us know the result of your application. This is useful information for us in the further work with the authorities and NAV.
When the dissertation has been submitted for assessment
Once you have completed compulsory courses and submitted the dissertation for assessment, you will no longer be regarded as in education and will then, as an unemployed person, be entitled to unemployment benefits according to current rules. However, if you do not get the dissertation approved for a public defence by the assessment committee but resume work on it in line with the committee's recommendations, you will again be able to be subject to the main rule of being in education. Then you can lose the right to unemployment benefits, even if you have no other income-generating work. If you have your dissertation approved and are unemployed in the period up to the public defence, you will still be entitled to unemployment benefits, but with a quarantine period in the last two weeks before the public defence.
Two weeks quarantine time in preparation for disputation
Trial lecture and disputation are normally held two consecutive days or the same day, where the topic for the trial lecture is handed out 14 days before the trial lecture is to take place. During that period, you will be busy preparing for the lecture and the dissertation and Nav will not consider you to be a real job seeker. From and including two weeks before the first trial lecture and up to and including the day you defend your dissertation you are therefore not entitled to unemployment benefit. When you have finished your dissertation, you are again entitled to unemployment benefits.
Following pressure from NAR, the system of quarantine time for submission and pending disputation was changed in 2011, so that the doctoral candidates' total quarantine time from unemployment benefits was reduced by nine weeks.
NAV: General information about unemployment benefits in English